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How to Privatize Airport Security ScreeningsResearch Paper

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Aviation Security and Screening

The federalization of airport screening has led to a "federalized Transportation Security Officer workforce that screens passengers and baggage traveling on passenger aircraft" as well as a number of other new additions to the way that flights are conducted all over the nation (National Strategy for Aviation Security, 2007, p. 5). These other additions include new cockpit doors that are meant to serve as added protection against intrusion, Federal Air Marshals who board as anonymous clients and are there for safety purposes, new technology that helps to detect explosive devices, and new Air Domain security strategies. All of this of course takes a toll on the tax paying public -- in more ways than one. First, it considerably slows down the time that it takes from check-in at the gate to boarding, as one must pass through a number of security checks. Two, it adds burdens to carriers and to fliers who now must weigh whether or not to check bags or take carry-on luggage, and the task force charged with carrying out all these security measures must be paid somehow -- and that means raiding the coffers of things like Social Security, which is virtually all gone for the next generation because of all the new departments that have been created by the federal government in the wake of 9/11 (Durden, 2015). The question remains, is it all worth it? Has federalized airport screening made us any safer? Or has it only added to the level of security bureaucracy in an already Orwellian world that suffers from too many safe-zones. What is, for example, the social blowback of too much securitization?

The threat of too encroaching of a federal government in matters of security can be seen in cases like that of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, where leaks and whistleblowers become celebrities and a counter-establishment gains popular traction, led by charismatic anti-establishmentarians like Juilan Assange. This can cause federal oversight to buckle under public scrutiny and federal officials to become entangled in bureaucratic messes that risk careers as well as national security. The fine line that needs to be walked is made all the finer by the media's attention to every report of a TSA agent stealing from passengers or protestors engaging in anti-TSA demonstrations while waiting in security queues.

Hessick (2002) notes that "Congress may have acted too quickly in passing the Aviation Act without considering the full impact of the Aviation Act on citizens' privacy" (p. 43). While this complaint may not seem pertinent at first glance to aviation security management, it actually is -- because when a public feels that its needs, in a democratic society, are not being represented, the potential for trouble increases exponentially -- and an angry public can be just as dangerous as an external enemy threat. One need only consider the threat of the Anonymous hacker group, for example, to understand the full potential implications of an over-securitization on the part of an Orwellian federal government intent on too much federalization of airport security.

There is also the matter of government and management waste. Mica (2011) discusses the pros of private security conducting airport security -- how the private model actually produces greater success and lower costs. Mica (2011) notes for example that "TSA has evolved into a bureaucratic, ineffective passenger screening hassle" and that due to an expanding work force, TSA now must manage all 63,000 of its employees -- a considerable and daunting task for any organization. In other words, federalization has led to a bloated organization that is inefficient, costly and wasteful. On the other hand, Gage (2011) notes that if we don't "contract out the FBI and Secret Service," why would we contract out the screening of airports? This question is somewhat disingenuous because what the FBI and Secret Service do is far more specialized than what TSA does, though each is equally important in the security of our nation.

Thus, as Ybarra (2013) adds, TSA has a major "conflict of interest" in that it regulates itself, while "all other aspects of airport security -- access control, perimeter control, lobby control, etc. -- are the responsibility of the airport" (p. 1). Why should the TSA act separately if it only controls a small percentage of the actual security of the airport? The question is a good one and cuts to the heart of the government bureaucracies created in the wake of 9/11 that do nothing but drain the public of its money and inefficiently "screen" passengers.

I would validate a plan of organizing the screening force in the following manner:

Airports are still not able to really "opt out" of TSA management, even with the Screening Partnership Program (SPP) because "the entire process is [still] micromanaged by TSA" with the TSA choosing for the airport which company will do the screening and then still regulating that service rather than allowing the airport to integrate it into its own security strategy and apparatus (Ybarra, 2013, p. 4). This is supposed to serve as more effective integration of airports so that oversight is complete -- but really it only fosters a bureaucratized and wasteful approach. Each airport should have the right to oversee screenings just as it does everything else.

Thus, the first approach to a new plan is to revise the rules that give the TSA the right to oversee all aspects of screening. All airports should be selecting private contractors for their security screenings. This not only embraces the idea of free market systems in the country, which the public will rally behind, but it also allows airports to act within their capacity as private industries. In this manner they can pick which service provider makes the "best-value proposal" and those providers can even be "TSA-certified contractors" so that everyone is on the same page in terms of trust and official approval, since integration of agencies is still important on the national level and any break in a link could lead to catastrophe (Ybarra, 2013, p. 4).

Second, the airport should also be the one to manage the private contract with the private security screening company. This should not be overseen by the TSA, because the TSA does not oversee all security aspects of the airport -- so to have TSA doing one section and the airport doing another creates disunity in operations and creates a disjointed affect that all feel and are negatively impacted by -- from top down, from workers and employees to passengers and crew members. The security apparatus at each airport should be totally absorbed by the airport without federal interference in the form of TSA. This would be another decisive measure that the public would support, since public opinion of the TSA lines at airports is far more negatively portrayed in media than positively portrayed.

Legislation should be passed to have these changes in protocol brought about because it is not enough to leave these as policy decisions to be implemented by the TSA. The TSA is as much of an Orwellian, monolithic figurehead of totalitarian inefficiency as is the NSA in the post-Snowden revelations. Care should be taken to cut back its intrusion. Thus, Congress needs to pass a bill stating the above regarding the implementation of private contractors in airports as private security screeners who are overseen by the airports themselves.

This change would affect the way passengers are screened and the way their bags are screened, and the savings that airports experience will more than likely be passed back on to the passengers, and again the public approval of this measure will more than likely eliminate the possibility of public blowback against government overreach. The threat of federalization of security is what this effort aims to protect against, for it is this threat that is felt most sharply by members of the public who are already unhappy with the deteriorating state of American freedom. This move will help to shore up public opinion, save airports money by allowing them to hire the best-value operators (who of course will still be approved by TSA -- but this will be a much less monolithic TSA -- one that is more involved in the organizational standards rather than in the oversight of private airports).

Thus, this change also has the added effect of making the TSA into more a certification authority rather than a managerial entity. Airports could still choose to work with TSA screeners if they so chose but they would not be under any obligation to accept federalized security forces in this aspect of protecting their business as well as the lives of passengers. The onus would again be on the airports and on the passengers themselves as it should be. Certification of contractors would fall on the TSA which would provide oversight in this department only.

There would then be greater accountability on the part of the airports and less on the government bureaucracy. It would also allow U.S. airports to be in "full… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"How To Privatize Airport Security Screenings."  Essaytown.com.  November 12, 2015.  Accessed March 29, 2017.
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